Students of Uptown Music Collective and the Community Theatre League will combine their talents at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday to present "42nd and Broadway: A Contemporary Broadway Review." The performance will take place at CTL, 100 W. Third St.
Students from both performing arts venues will be a part of this first collaboration.
"We've been lucky enough over the last few years to collaborate with many other youth-oriented, community-minded organizations, like the Williamsport Youth Orchestra, Community Alliance for Progressive Positive Action, local after-school programs and performing groups from the Williamsport Area High School and other area schools," said Dave Brumbaugh, Uptown's executive director. "Teaming up with the Community Theatre League to present this performance is very exciting for me. I have admired their work in the community for the past 25-plus years and feel priviledged that they asked us to perform in their theater. This also is a great opportunity for our students and staff to collaborate with Community Theatre League regulars, many of whom I have enjoyed in CTL and ACT UP! performances over the last few years."
CTL's executive director Pam Wright couldn't agree more. Given the amount of talented people in the area, Wright said she couldn't think of a better way than to collaborate with another community organization that puts its heart and soul into providing performance and learning opportunities for youth.
According to Brumbaugh, Collective students have never attempted to cover Broadway to this extent. "42nd and Broadway" will feature performances of pieces from recent "rock-based" musicals, like "Wicked," "Next to Normal," "Spring Awakening," "Tick Tick Boom," "Rent," "Legally Blonde" and "Jersey Boys." The vocalists for the show include a mix of UMC students and CTL regulars, accompanied by a band of Collective students who will offer a rock edge to the performance.
"We are working with some of the finest young singers and performers in the area, who together will be performing some of the most exciting music on Broadway today," Brumbaugh said. "Youth power is one of the most compelling aspects of any Uptown Music Collective event. This performance has that in spades."
A press release shared detailed information about the progression and acceptance of rock musicals, claiming that in 2010, all four musicals nominated for Tony awards could be described as rock musicals. This gradual evolution, it said, started with the musical "Hair" in the late '60s, and including "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Godspell," "Grease," "The Wiz" and "Dream Girls." More recent acts in the rock musical genre have included "Rent," "Spring Awakening," "Passing Strange," "Next to Normal," "Jersey Boys" and "American Idiot."
Uptown students are excited to tackle this different style of music. Performers of the music school recently finished up "Night With the Living Dead," which covered the songs of late musicians who died at the age of 27. Although it has been difficult, Brumbaugh said the cast for this Broadway performance is much smaller and features fewer songs. Even so, he is proud of the level of devotion that comes from such young people.
"The willingness of all of the students involved, UMC and CTL regulars, to work hard and to strive for perfection (is most impressive)," he said. "There hasn't been any whining or any excuses that you might expect from a group of teens asked to organize and rehearse a show night after night."
In fact, many of the students, like Nuria Hunter, are excited to take a step out of their comfort zones.
"As a musician in the Collective, I have been exposed to all different types of music, however Broadway is a new spectrum that most Collective students have not experienced," Hunter said. "I am very grateful to be a member of this show. Along with the new type of music, the change to work with high school performers from all over the community is amazing. I know that we are all up for the challenge."
Performer Dylan Rockoff echoed Hunter's thoughts, but said it has taken some time to get used to the idea of covering Broadway tunes.
" '42nd and Broadway' has been a very exciting, engaging and unique experience for me," he said. "I was not particularly a fan of Broadway music coming into the show and had my doubts about what I, personally, could contribute to the group. Through preparations for the show, I've come to appreciate the workings of Broadway music and the camaraderie, which comes with working with students from the CTL who bring such great ideas and different points of view to the workings of a musical production."
CTL youth program coordinator Jacquie Engel sees this acceptance as an opportunity to engage others in the unfamiliar.
"It's a great way to introduce our audiences, both to the great contemporary musicals out there, and to the talented students at the Collective," Engel said.
Tickets for "42nd and Broadway: A Contemporary Broadway Review," which are available at the Community Theatre League Box Office, are $15 for adults (two for $25) and $8 for students. Proceeds will benefit both organizations.
For more information, visit uptownmusic.org or ctlnet.org or call 329-0888.